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Black American Women You Need to Know
Day 18: Billie Holiday
Over on my other Tumblr, there is a classic picture of Billie that i re-blogged from someone else. As i was perusing my blog looking for something else for my son last evening (really, this evening, as i write these the night before), i ran across that picture and pointed it out.
Me: See, Billie Holiday. Beautiful, huh?
Boy: Uh uh, that's a woman mom.
Me: Dude, Billie Holiday was a woman. A beautiful woman.
Boy: Oh… i didn't know.
So for the sake of all the young folk (mine is 13) who are so out of touch with history (and mine loves history even), i thought today should be Billie's day.
i most associate Billie Holiday with Strange Fruit… by which i mean, when i think of Billie, i think first of her singing that song. The pain in that song is apparent in the lyrics, and her voice did it justice, showcasing how the pain remains in the people for whom that story is a truth. It still hurts me to hear it (as i listen while typing this i feel tension and goose bumps rise within the first line).
Of course Billie sang other meaningful songs, other fun songs, other songs that touch people and remain classics to this day (and hopefully for centuries to come). She also inspired following generations of musicians and singers, even if not enough seem to give her that credit.
Her "personal tragedy", as so many like to call it, was being born a Black woman in a time and place where that was not respected, before it was acceptable to say "I'm Black and I'm proud". Her life was hard from the beginning and the fact that she was able to go as far as she did says a lot for her strength. She worked in a male dominated industry and made way for all the women singers since. She poured her pain into the music in a way that few artists today do, now that it is fashionable to pick up a bad habit and truly great music and singing is rare.